Community Series Blog: G.I. Jeff

Community returns after a week-long break with an episode that encapsulates many of the features that has made the show great in the past. While it doesn’t quite reach the heights of similarly themed episodes, ‘G.I. Jeff’ proves that the show is very much itself again.

Most of the episode is told through the form of a ‘G.I. Joe’ cartoon circa the 1980’s. All the gang are here, but are soon persecuted by both the forces of the Joe’s and Cobra after Jeff actually kills one of the latter, instead of shooting in a random, non-violent 80’s TV show fashion. As the gang go on the run, they slowly piece together why they are stuck in the form of an 80’s cartoon, with the nature of the problem concerning Jeff’s arrival at the threshold of his 40’s.

‘G.I. Joe’ is not a cartoon I ever had a great affiliation with, nor was it a toy I found myself with (namely because here in the UK, Action Man was more the thing). But American 80’s cartoons were a dime a dozen, with myself being familiar with the likes of ‘Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles’ and ‘M.A.S.K.’, allowing me to have just enough awareness of the form being parodied here.

The animation direction goes hand in hand beautifully with the writing, which takes on an Inception-style structure, moving from the animated world, to a toy commercial, to reality. The quirks and imperfections of the forms are played for wondrous comedic effect, amounting to one of Community’s finest meta-moments.

Community has always been at its strongest when it combines meta-narratives with a deeper issue. Season Two’s ‘Abed’s Uncontrollable Christmas’ wrapped its stop-motion madness around Abed’s struggle to accept the disintegration of his family during the Holiday Season. ‘G.I. Jeff’ by no means strikes the heights of that particular Season 2 highlight, namely for the issue at its centre doesn’t feel quite as organic or unique, but it is commendable how close it does come.

The main issue with this episode remains in a classic Community flaw; its contradictory habit of teasingly entering dark corners, but backing out before everything gets too deep to end on a disappointing brush of saccharine glaze. It’s lucky that its ideas are strong enough for this never to be too distracting an issue, but it is a shame that the writing still feels the need to end on an unsatisfying cheesy note.


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